Playing with narratives.
Playing with narratives.
London March 23rd 2019
Thoughts on the sacred feminine written in haste on my phone.
My painting of Mary Magdalene and the Dove.
When I was a young girl, my first European travels were to France, and my father being an architect and with encyclopaedic knowledge of architectural history, would take me to churches in France and talk at length about them with enthusiasm and passion. It was in those churches that I became fascinated by the elaborate and beautiful images of the Madonna, the Holy Mother. Having been brought up in a non-religious family, these images, icons and statues in French churches and the reverent hushed stillness of these sacred places, the scent of frankincense, quiet whisperings, the stained glass, vaulted ceilings, elaborate carvings and secret spaces instilled in me a state of quiet awe.
When we visited Les Saintes Maries de la Mer in Provence, I learned about the Black Madonna, Sara, the Patron Saint of Gypsies. I also learned that in folklore, myth or fact, who knows, and consequently talked about as ‘pseudohistory’ because it challenges patriarchal versions of history, that Mary Magdalene was said to have arrived with Mary the mother of Jesus, and Mary the sister of Lazarus in a rudderless boat at Les Saintes Maries de la Mer and that with them was Mary Magdalene’s small daughter Sarah. The myth/truth//story was that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and that Sarah was their child and some say that the Holy Grail was the womb of Mary Magdalene.
The book ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ fascinated me and the story that Sarah became a part of a sacred bloodline in France and that the Holy Grail is still in the mysterious Corbieres mountains in southern France, in Rennes le Chateau.
These stories of Mary Magdalene and Jesus are said to have been suppressed by the Roman Church. Who knows how much more has been suppressed. How many more stories have been written out of our commonly held narratives? How much have women been edited out of the sacred texts and scriptures. In the dead sea scrolls, there are parts which describe and allude to Jesus and Mary Magdalene being close in more than a spiritual way. I am not an adherent to any belief system, or religion, but I know how suppressed women have been. The secrets and mystery of the village of Rennes-le-Château, and the south western part of France inhabited by the Cathars, both a place and group of persecuted religious people who have always fascinated me. My partner and I once bought a house in the Corbieres mountains because I felt such depth of affinity with this area.
My images of the sacred feminine and the Magdalene are my way of putting back the energy of the feminine into the patriarchal versions of history. I can’t rewrite history but i can put images into the ether and contribute in some small way to a new paradigm; that of the sacred feminine.
Some days are perfect. Solitude, driving, glorious weather. I saw a sign while driving, knowing something was beneath an overpass and found an exquisite canyon, the depth of which took my breath. There was a tiny chapel at one end of the road, and the canyon below an ancient bridge. My eyes and mind were bewitched by the sight of such depth and grandeur.
I then drove into the Lecrin Valley and took the road less traveled, passing no one, up a precipitous and winding road from Pinos del Vallee.. I found an abandoned house with endless views and the slightly cold wind was enough to refresh me as I had climbed so high. I dared to go into the derelict building. In places the ceiling and roof were non-existent. There was a threshing floor and an old tiled swimming pool. The house had once been very grand, or its intentions had been grand. I didn’t know if it had ever been finished, but I think probably so as someone had added an extension, left unfinished. It must have been abandoned for years, decades. There was a dusty old bottle of Cava on a window sill, as if to celebrate something that had never quite happened. Or maybe it was a relic of its distant more glamourous days.
While staying here in the mountains, i meet a lot of people. Some are friends, some just momentary connections. One thing I have noticed in particular, is how the people who live here, and especially those who have lived here for years, become the land. The women are tough, strong, no nonsense. It must be a survival thing. They live in cortijos with uneven floors, low-beamed ceilings, wood that needs chopping, compost loos, land with wild boar, gardens or wild land which are in constant need of attention, acequias which need maintaining lest they overflow and flood their homes or land. These women are like rock. Like mountain rock. I make the observation about the women because it’s such a contrast to the women in the UK. Maybe that’s partially why i am drawn here. I feel I need a bit of that energy for a time. To be honest I am not made for that hard life, although it’s wonderful to dip in and out of occasionally. To build fires in the evening and really feel the rhythms of nature, but I feel like a romantic dreamer compared to these tough courageous women. I don’t need to be keeping nature at bay; i need to be observing it. I need my painting time, my time to dream and walk and sit and watch.
I live by the sea, so I feel I embody more the energy of water. Fluid, malleable, changeable, tidal, soft, sometimes strong, emotional. On further reflection though, I don’t want to become tough. My favourite country is still Spain but i am more inclined to be by the sea these days. The sea and Spain seems like a plan for future days. Then i can still come and drink mountain water and walk the magic pathways.
The full moon has been very powerful; the light intoxicating. My trips to Ferreirola for the water have been like manna. Up there in la Taha the energy is like no other i have encountered. Rarefied, magical, otherworldly. I feel i have taken a journey to another dimension when i am there.
It’s my last evening here. Today i decided to just paint and sit and drink coffee, soak up the light, walk a bit. I even bought a beautiful dress. It’s hard to find clothes here that are not too hippyish but i found one.
I love the sounds of the church bells, the mopeds, and just looking at the mountains fills me with rapture. I feel emotional leaving and can’t wait to come back.
The painting below is entitled The Magdalene Birds.
by Caroline Mellor
I am the dream of awakening.
I am the returning of the light.
I am the tough green shoot pushing up through the pavestones, I am the first kiss of sunlight on the unfurling petals of the snowdrop. I am the wind which whispers the gentle pull of home to the migratory bird.
I am the drop of ice melting on the mountainside with its great dream of the ocean.
I am the sap rising in the blossom tree just before it reveals its sticky buds to the sky; I am the riotous celebration humming away beneath the earth’s mantle of frozen sleep.
I am the rousing of the bee from its winter slumber, and the soft pad of the mother-wolf’s paw on the snow as she prepares to birth her pups.
I am hope, potential, rebirth and promise. I am the kindling breath which transforms the flicker of inspiration in your creative core into a blazing torch.
Give me the silent crescent moon rising over the sea and I will build you a bridge of silver light so you can walk up and lie in it.
Give me the frost-hardened wilderness and I will breathe radiant green life over it.
Give me the healer, the writer, the craftsperson and the storyteller, and I will replenish her essence and make her new again.
I am Brigid, Bast, Inanna and Hestia. I am the fierce protectress of the sacred fire.
Tonight I bestow my gifts of power and courage at the hearth of your soul: power to step out of the shadows of self-doubt and negativity which have held you in darkness for too long, power to shed all that which no longer serves you, and courage to clear your heart and mind for the dawn that awaits you.
I am the time to honor your unique gifts for their true worth and to protect and nurture your creative self as you would a child. I am the deep longing of the spirit which refuses to be consumed by a narrative of fear and chooses instead to place itself vivaciously on the side of love.
I am the stirring in your belly which knows exactly what you are capable of — and that it’s time the world found out.
I am the fire within which will not be contained any longer.
I am the quickening, I am the serpent uncoiling, I am Imbolc.
I am the dream of awakening.